He knows a place where all their relationship problems will go awayby Tony Domaille
I KNOW A PLACE
by Tony Domaille
‘I know a place. Somewhere the world can’t find us. It’ll be just you and me. Are you excited? I’m excited and I’m taking you there now. We can be there before morning. Let’s go.’
She sleeps as I drive. She doesn’t see the ‘Don’t Drive When Tired,’ signs on the motorway, and I listen to the radio to make sure I stay alert. It’s a long way, and I’m tempted to put my foot down, but I don’t want to be pulled for speeding. I’m keeping to the limits, even when we get to Devon and my route turns from A roads to B roads to little more than tracks.
I glance to my left and she looks so peaceful, her eyes closed against the oncoming headlights. And as her face is lit, I remember her first words to me, ‘Hi, I’m Lucy, can I help you with anything?’
There are so many people browsing, but she chooses me. I think she just wants an excuse to talk to me, so I make it easy for her. I subtly exaggerate how much help I need tracking down various titles on the shelves of her book shop. But I keep my eyes on her gorgeous elfin face. I almost feel giddy at the scent of her long black hair as it swings when she reaches for the higher shelves. And her figure, well…
‘I think you’ll be happy with these,’ she says, and places four books on the counter back at her till.
I say, ‘I think it’s you that’s made me happy,’ but realise I’ve gone too far, too quickly. I feel the prickle of embarrassment as she looks uncomfortable with my words.
I stutter and apologise and bluster that she’s so pretty it’s made me silly. Then I’m relieved when she smiles and says, ‘Well, thank you very much, kind Sir.’
She knows I’m already besotted with her. She knows I’ll come back. How could she not? The first few times I call at the shop and ask her if she’d like to go for a drink, she doesn’t actually say no, she just tells me she’s busy. But then I guess I become less awkward. My gentle persistence pays off. Eventually she says, ‘Alright, alright, I give in. Where shall we go?’ and I take her to a new wine bar, hoping to impress.
Everyone loves a tryer. That’s me. I see she’s falling for me quickly, but it takes more than one date. She makes me work hard for her attention. I spend a good deal of money. But once I buy her clothes, jewellery, make-up, she softens, and she starts to feel more and more like she’s mine. And the more she is mine, the more I feel I can choose the dresses, or how she wears her hair. At first, she complains, but I say, ‘You can’t see how beautiful you are, so how can you see how to make the most of that beauty?’
I don’t just help her there. I improve everything. I point out the friends who aren’t good enough for her. The ones who are jealous of me and my time with her. She doesn’t need them interfering in her life, so I make her see what true friendship looks like and the people she should leave behind. I help her put her ungrateful family at arm’s length. They don’t appreciate her. They don’t care about her like I do, and it’s my job to keep negative people away from her.
Sometimes I shudder to think what would have happened to her if she hadn’t met me that day in the bookshop. A beautiful, but weak, soul like Lucy would have her life ruined by being around the wrong people. Now I’m with her, she can’t be hurt by them. She can’t be duped by people who don’t deserve her.
It’s me who deserves her. I can give her everything. Though there are times – too many for my liking – when I question whether she deserves me. She can appear ungrateful for all I do for her, and I have to stop and think about how that can be. Then I realise she can’t help the years of bad influence she’s suffered from bad friends and bad family. It takes time to clean up that mess. She’s like an unpolished diamond and I’m the master jeweller.
So, it’s taking time to make her shine as she should. But even before she’s the finished article, I know I want to be with her forever. I want to spend every available moment with her, though until today I’m never sure it will happen. We go through that whole period where she says she wants ‘some space.’ She’s irritated when I wait outside the shop for her to finish work. She gets cross at how often I call her or how many texts I send. There’s even a weekend when she won’t answer her phone or her door. I’m forced to go to her counter on Monday morning to ask why.
‘I need some time to myself,’ she says, but I tell her we need to be together.
‘Not every minute,’ she says.
I ask why, but she shakes her head. ‘It’s just not normal.’
I’m hurt. What could be more normal than wanting to be with her all the time? What could be more normal than loving someone as beautiful as her? It’s her who isn’t being normal. There’s nothing normal about her deciding we need a break from our relationship. Nothing normal about pushing me away.
I just thank God it doesn’t last long. I call her so many times. I send her lots of texts, and I even write a handful of old-fashioned letters. In the end, I make her see how much she misses me, and I’m not surprised when she says I can come round to her flat.
When she opens the door, it’s like seeing her for the first time again. Her scent is intoxicating, and it’s so exciting that she’s made so much effort for me. Her hair shines. Her make-up is almost as I’ve told her to do it. It accentuates her eyes and I she must know that I love the contrast of her hair falling on her pure white dress.
I start talking. She starts talking. I know I’m not registering what she’s saying, but I can’t stop speaking. I have to make her see that we cannot be apart. No more breaks. No more being separated when we should be together.
We start to argue. I don’t want it to be that way. I’m so disappointed that our romantic reunion is being ruined. I can’t understand how my perfect girl can speak as she’s speaking, or that her words can curl her lip that way. I beg her to stop. I tell her that some things once said cannot be unsaid. But she keeps saying all the wrong things, even when I warn her. She won’t stop and I’m ashamed to say I lose my temper. It’s really not me. I don’t hit girls, but I hit her, and she stops. She stops saying bad things about me and I tell her if she apologises, then so will I.
We sit on her floor, both of us with tears tracking our cheeks, and I hold her. I hold her tight and I make her tell me what she needs to say.
‘I love you,’ she says. ‘I want to be with you forever,’ she says. ‘I’ll never let you down again,’ she says, and I know that she never will.
It’s done. I know we’ll never fall out again, but we can’t leave until her dress is changed. The white one feels like it goes with our fight, so I want her in the happy yellow one instead. It’ll help to erase the memory of all this unpleasantness, and we’ll call it her going away dress. I want her hair changed as well before we set off. It’s important to me that she looks right. Then once we’re on the road, everything feels better. We put the difficult moments behind us and look forward to being together.
We’ll be there in a minute. The place I know. The light from my headlamps bounces as I drive slowly along the unmade track that leads to the copse of trees I see as my special place. She’ll love it there. It’s a place where we can be together, and the rest of the world is left behind. I’m just sorry I can only stay with her a short while. I have to go back to work and all those things you just can’t leave too long. But I know she won’t be lonely when I’ve gone. I bring all the girls I love here. They sleep under the leaf strewn earth and they’ll be here for me forever.